Fun with hot pot
Chinese hot pot restaurants aren’t new to Atlanta, but we’ve never had as many as we do now. And these days, you can experience the hot pot ritual—in which you simmer a variety of ingredients in bubbling broth—in more finely appointed settings, with menus devoted to authentic regional styles.
While some Japanese and Korean restaurants offer shabu-shabu—a meal that’s a direct descendant of the Chinese hot pot—Chinese restaurants that specialize in hot pots differ in that they offer an extraordinary number of broths, ingredients, condiments, and sauces. For that reason, this is a style of dining best suited to a group. And if there are vegetarians in your party or someone who can’t take the same level of heat as you, there are divided pots with a different broth in each compartment.
After the broth arrives, the fun starts with the procession of individual ingredients, ordered from the menu, that arrive at your table on a cart or a tray: thin slices of meat (mostly beef and lamb, some offal), seafood (flounder, blue crab, shellfish, squid balls), and vegetables (ranging from taro to cabbage to Taiwanese lettuce). For me, there is something magical about staring at a pot set on an induction burner, waiting for just the right moment to fish rosy beef, tight little slivers of pork liver, rectangles of fish tofu, Chinese yams, and other treasures out of a spicy, aromatic pork-bone broth.
The array of condiments can be dizzying and dazzling, with sauces crafted from hot peppers, peanut, soy, miso, or leek flowers, as well as chopped or ground herbs and spices, all for you to season the food you cook. Make sure to order noodles—often homemade—and cook them last, when the broth has achieved maximum concentration.
The apogee of the genre, the new Sichuan-style Good Harvest Modern Chinese Hot Pot on Buford Highway, also offers “dry” versions of hot pot (basically, huge stir-fries or casseroles) and makes liberal use of the numbing “rattan pepper” (green Sichuan pepper berries).
There aren’t quite as many options at places such as Hot Melody, the two locations of J’s Mini Hot Pot, and Vietnamese conveyor-belt spot I Luv Hot Pot, but all provide a good introduction to this festive and hands-on style of eating.
I can glance at pretty much any menu or wine list and, within 10 seconds, find a misspelling. I am not looking for faults to correct, yet it galls me to see people spending millions to open a restaurant who never bother to spell-check their menus.
Does anybody remember the era of the portobello mushroom (just as commonly spelled “portabella,” “porto bello,” and so on)? I find that prosciutto is still routinely spelled “proscuitto.” And I worry that if I keep reading “desert” instead of dessert, “vinagrette” instead of vinaigrette, and “Ceasar” salad rather than Caesar, I’ll forget how to spell in everyday life.
If one of your specialties is bouillabaisse or vichyssoise, I expect you to remember the double letters. Same goes for ricotta, fettuccine, focaccia, and panna cotta. The second “i” in shiitake is often forgotten, and mesclun sometimes erroneously ends with an “m.” This doesn’t diminish the quality of your restaurant, but it annoys me.
Wine lists are even worse than menus, with the popular “Grüner Veltliner” as a leader in the category of most commonly massacred. And if I drank Shirley Temples, I would be sure to ask for an “s” in my maraschino cherry.
This article appears in our May 2019 issue.